Wednesday, September 19 , 2018, 5:48 pm | Fair 76º

 
 
 

Paul Burri: I Wish I Didn’t Have Any Competition

On the other hand, it's not all bad; it keeps you sharp and keeps you innovating

How would you like to have a business that had no competition? For a long time I thought that would be the ideal business. But what kind of business would have no competition? Well, it could be for a product or service that no one ever heard of before, such as home-delivered milk and fresh-baked bread, chocolate-covered tacos or, say, in-home haircuts.

OK, OK — not great examples. But here’s the thing: If you were to come up with some product or service that no one offers, would that be the first sign of a sure success?

Perhaps not. Perhaps it was because no one ever thought of it before — think of Facebook, Google, Amazon or Instagram, to name a few. But it could also be because someone tried it and it didn’t work. (Even that may not be a reason to deter you. Click here for my column on that topic.)

If your idea has been tried before and didn’t work, and you can’t overcome the reason that it didn’t work, perhaps you should try something else. But if there is no competition because your idea is truly unique, then you may be on to something. Just be sure you’re not so in love with your idea that you envision a demand where there really isn’t one. It’s called drinking your own Kool-Aid. One test to see if you have a good idea is to ask your mother. (I’m being cynical. Of course she’ll think it’s a great idea.)

So you proceed with your great idea that has no competition — and you base your pricing, your business model and your cost structure on the basis of no competition. And the business does well. Congratulations!

But don’t go to sleep now. I guarantee that if your idea or your business is as great as we now believe, you will soon have some competition. They are out there watching. Who is out there? Other entrepreneurs like yourself who are also looking for every opportunity. You will soon have someone who is doing what you are doing or something close to it. And perhaps better, faster or cheaper.

But competition is not all bad if you are creative, imaginative and competitive. Competition keeps you sharp. It keeps you on your toes. It makes you keep innovating, and it keeps you from stagnating. Just be sure you are always ahead of the other guy, though. And competition can be stimulating for both competitors.

Have you ever noticed how McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell are always right around the corner from one another? Why do you think that is?

And you don’t need to get 100 percent of the business. Let the other guy have 5 percent or so.*

*(Just kidding again, but I think you understood that.)

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He has been a counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) for the past eight years. SCORE offers free business counseling to local businesses. He is also the membership director of the Channel City Camera Club. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous Paul Burri columns. Follow Paul Burri on Twitter: @BronxPaul.

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